Google Inches Every Browser Toward Universal Augmented Reality
Andrew Wheeler posted on January 25, 2018 | 1784 views

Following advances in augmented reality (AR) as it pertains to architects, designers and engineers means keeping your attention squarely focused on applications for visualization, prototyping and training.

However, advances in making the technology available for everyone to explore shouldn’t be ignored by engineers, designers and architects because the core use of AR—besides and including entertainment—is visualization.

The big promise of augmented reality for members of the architecture, engineering and construction (AEC) sector is to enable digital prototypes to be substitutes in the intended real-world environment as a digital twin of what would be a physical prototype.

Google Builds 3D Model Viewer for All Browsers

In a Jan. 22 blog post, Google developers were privy to the first look at Article, the 3D model viewer for all browsers. What they do not include is that SketchFab, the 3D model hosting community website, announced an AR viewer for iOS devices in September 2017 and followed up with a version for Android users two months later. This highlights a distinct advantage that small startups have over tech giants like Apple and Google: they can be agnostic and universal. In other words, you won’t see Google releasing any apps for Apple’s ARKit, though they no doubt use it behind the scenes to compete.

How Article Works

First you load Article on an AR-capable device and browser. Then, looking down and to the right, you’ll see an AR button. When you tap it, it turns on the devices camera and renders a little reticle. Then if you tap the screen, the reticle grows from the ground into a 3D model. You can then move around it and get a sense of its scale as though it were a physical object.

If you want to move the model, you tap it and drag it where you want. To rotate it, drag with two fingers. According to the post, Google’s developers have shown that “clear interface cues are key to helping users learn how AR works.” (Image courtesy of Google.)
If you want to move the model, you tap it and drag it where you want. To rotate it, drag with two fingers. According to the post, Google’s developers have shown that “clear interface cues are key to helping users learn how AR works.” (Image courtesy of Google.)

The AR interface, or diagetic UI, is programmed to give users cues. For example,when a user waits for Article to find a real surface represented by the camera, a little circle appears on whichever surface it picks. The circle then tilts and moves with the movement of the device.

Tools Used to Build Article Viewer

Article was built with Three.js, which opens it up to developers because of its ease-of-use with WebGL.

The viewer is dependent on the speed of your connection. To ensure the model shows up properly and the application runs smoothly, reduce the polygon count and shadow resolution, and keep the number of lights low.

Bottom Line

The more tricks and tools an engineer, architect or designer has in their bag, the more chances they have to share their work with people on their team, decision-makers or the general public. The promise of sharing 3D models built by persons in the AEC sector for viewing in AR is a harbinger of the immersive future that lies ahead.


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